Criticism of Israel, which has been on the rise since the late 1970s, has various causes and sources. Generally speaking, they can be separated into two larger categories. Firstly, antizionism, which brings into question the basic right of existence of the State of Israel and secondly, the criticism of Israel’s politics and policies.
Antizionism is the opposite of the term Zionism. Zionism describes the Jewish national movement which was established due to antisemitism in Europe. It started to politically organize itself in the 1880s and has the goal of establishing a Jewish nation state in Palestine, the area from which most Jews where exiled nearly 2000 years ago. Antizionism puts into question the right of self-determination of the Jewish people, expressed through Zionism. It ignores that Zionism’s goal of establishing a Jewish state was not to create an area where only Jews live, but rather a country where Jews could find a safe haven in times of trouble and persecution. Antizionism, when used to call for the destruction of the Jewish State, can be antisemitic.
Crossing the line of legitimate criticism
Criticism of Israel’s politics and policies, its government or its socio-political set up are valid, just as such criticism is valid towards any other country. The situation changes as soon as criticism is moved from the government or Israeli politics towards all Israelis. Especially when calling all Israelis or even all Jews perpetrators in the Middle East conflict, the line of legitimate criticism is crossed and it becomes an antisemitic statement. A further example of the blurred line between legitimate and illegitimate criticism is when the State of Israel is held to a higher standard than other comparable countries.
It is often not possible to differentiate clearly between criticism of the State of Israel, Antizionism and antisemitism. Therefore, a mix of the three can often be observed.